Mr. Arai Shogo, Governor of Nara Prefecture,
Mr. Nishimura Hidetoshi, President, Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia,
His Excellency Mr. Tsutomu Himeno, Ambassador in charge of Kansai,
Laureates of the Fifth Asia Cosmopolitan Awards
Mr. Angel Gurria, Former Secretary-General, OECD;
Ms. Mari Elka Pangestu, Managing Director, World Bank;
Mr. Kuma Kengo, Architect and Professor, University of Tokyo;
Family of Mr. Lee O Young, First Minister of Culture, Republic of Korea;
On behalf of Mr. Ponsiano Intal, Senior Economist and Senior Policy Fellow, ERIA, Mr. Aniceto C. Orbeta Jr, President, Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am extremely honoured to be invited to address the Nara Forum 2023.
The Asia Cosmopolitan Awards recognizes the contributions made by individuals toward cultural and economic integration, narrowing of developmental gaps and sustainable societal growth.
Let me, at the onset, congratulate the laureates of the Fifth Asia Cosmopolitan Awards for their efforts toward development in East Asia.
With more than three-fifths of the world’s population, the Asian and Pacific region has an outsized global impact.
Among the members of the Group of Twenty (G20), an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union to address global economic issues, eight are located in Asia and the Pacific.
The region is furthermore diverse, with more than half of the countries being least developed, landlocked or small islands. Many of these countries, especially in the Pacific as well as in Central Asia and the Caucuses, attained self-governance only within our lifetimes.
As a result of their population and economic size, these countries are easily affected by economic, environmental and social changes. They furthermore have far fewer options and less resources to counter exogenous shocks due to their geographical isolation and institutional fragility.
There are global and regional issues that affects us all. This is especially true in a world where all aspects of our lives are economically, socially and environmentally intertwined.
We felt the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as rising fuel and food prices. They changed the way we conduct our lives. As a result of the pandemic, we reduced contact with our families, friends and colleagues. The pandemic interrupted international supply chains and slowed economic output, especially in the service sectors.
We realized that national policies must be coupled with international cooperation in order to reach long-lasting solutions. The return to normality resulted not only from national public health initiatives but also from the sharing of research and development of vaccines as well as global production and distribution. We know what can be done when attention is placed on our common priorities and efforts are focused.
We will be able to successfully maintain international financial stability, mitigate climate change and attain sustainable development only by working together. And by working together, the realm of possibilities becomes greater.
The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific was established in Shanghai in 1947 to facilitate concerted action for economic reconstruction and development of Asia and the Pacific, following General Assembly Resolution 46(I) of 11 December 1946.
Japan marked its return to the regional arena in the post-war era by becoming a member of our Commission on 24 July 1954, two years prior its accession to the United Nations as its eightieth member on 18 December 1956. Our membership has since expanded from 14 countries to 53 countries and nine territories.
We marked our seventy-fifth anniversary in March last year. At the seventy-eighth session of the Commission, our members adopted resolution 78/1, the Bangkok Declaration, to commemorate the anniversary and pursue a common agenda to advance sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.
The resolution celebrated the extraordinary socioeconomic progress that lifted millions out of poverty in the region that is now home to some of the world’s largest, most dynamic economies and a diversity of cultures and economic and social systems.
It also recognized the need to address the outstanding development challenges of persisting poverty and inequalities, vulnerability to shocks, natural disasters and climate change and environmental degradation.
Our members pledged their strong support for the Commission’s role in catalyzing regional cooperation and supporting actions to confront regional, transboundary and common challenges, and reaffirmed their commitment to advancing sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.
Through this resolution, our members committed to:
- leave no one behind;
- put people, including women and girls, at the centre of all our efforts;
- protect our planet from the challenges to our common environment, including climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and natural disasters;
- develop healthy environments and better manage environmental risks and resources;
- work together to enhance regional connectivity and to improve digital cooperation;
- keep markets open; and
- align public and private financial resources to effectively pursue our sustainable development aspirations
To attain these goals, the resolution reaffirmed the commitments set forth in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the partnerships needed to strengthen multilateralism and international cooperation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The old saying that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step can be applied to how we take on those challenges I just mentioned.
As each one of us has a point of view about how to address such complicated issues, our collaboration could be more effective if we identifed common areas of interest and worked together to solve them first.
Building on the trust that is developed we can then move to bridge the remaining gaps, step-by-step, until we have successfully tackled the entirety of the problem.
To do so, we need trusted visionaries who can show us what could be possible if we transcend our immediate concerns and focus on what we hold common.
The preservation and handing over of a better world for our future generations is ultimately our common wish.
I am pleased to be able to recognize the efforts and accomplishments of Mr. Angel Gurria, Ms. Mari Elka Pangestu, Mr. Kuma Kengo, Mr. Lee O Young and Dr. Ponsiano Intal. They are undoubtedly leaders in their respective fields.
More importantly, however, they are being recognized today since they have been able to bridge differences in perspectives, seek ways to reach common ground and show us what could be possible by building confidence in Asia and the Pacific.
I would like to once again congratulate each laureate for their achievements.
With these words, I thank you.